On June 12, Dr. Regina Benjamin announced that she would be stepping down as surgeon general. She is certainly an inspiring figure. Hailed as a hero in the world of primary care, Benjamin founded a rural clinic in Alabama that she famously rebuilt on multiple occasions — once after Hurricane Georges, then after Hurricane Katrina, and again after a fire. She was the first African-American woman elected to the American Medical Association Board of Trustees. In addition, she won the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights and a MacArthur “genius” award. This impressive resume made her an obvious choice for nomination by President Obama.
During her tenure as surgeon general, Benjamin translated much of her previous experience into her work. She encouraged preventive care and healthy lifestyles to combat the onslaught of chronic illness in our country. Obesity was the central target of her efforts; whether organizing walks or visiting schools during lunchtime, she took a stand against what may be the defining health issue of our time. Upon the announcement of Benjamin’s resignation, influential voices like Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and the American Public Health Association praised her service.